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To Lose a Child; to my friend Patrice

It isn’t fair, it isn’t right –don’t tell me words–with words so slight; don’t say you know just how I feel –
I ache with pain and know it’s real;
each morning when I wake and find
that you’re still gone–I’ll lose my mind …
Unless you’ve lost a son like me —
don’t comprehend– I’m in a sea–
of deepest darkest agony…
Only briefly, to come up for air,
and look around–But you’re not here.
Tell me, baby, do you see
the pain I’m in –while you are free;
I’m tied to earth to wait my turn,
Tell me, God, what must I learn?

– Sandra Lee Smith-


Here’s a thought–what do you do with handwritten recipes originally in a small ring notebook, now falling apart with age, browning and literally falling apart?

Or more precisely, what do I do with all these little treasures? I think some of them were given to me by Roger, my son Kelly’s godfather, who passed away years ago but when he was alive and able to get around in his truck, would find boxes full of recipes in small notebooks, old manufacturers recipe booklets (back then given away free, for the asking on a postcard–back when a stamp for a postcard was three cents).

I think Roger enjoyed scouting around for valuables in thrift stores. I still have about 6 or 8 restaurant size trays used in cafeterias; Roger found these at a restaurant supply store and I have been using those trays for many purposes ever since my sons were children. Roger bought them because we often made shishkabobs and it was handy to have these trays with the kabobs waiting to go on the grill.

whenever the grandkids come to decorate cookies, theses trays are absolutely perfect; each child decorates his/or her cookies on the tray and the mess is kept to a minimum. I also use the trays whenever I am baking cookies, placing racks on the trays to cool the cookies.

But I digress (sorry, that’s a bad habit of mine) – getting back to handwritten recipes–I have been asking myself for a long time how to preserve them especially when most of these are in such poor condition. The answer was right in front of me!

For the past few weeks I have been going through my cooking/womens magazines, taking them apart, and converting them into my own version of homemade cookbooks; I probably have over 50 three-ring binders with pages from magazines put into plastic page covers that I get at staples for about $18 for a box of 200 “sleeves”.

This was something that started in 1958 with Christmas recipes from my favorite magazines. That binder grew until nothing more would fit into it, so I started a second binder of cookie recipes but by now was clipping any cookie recipes that appealed to me. I am up to 12 binders of cookie recipes. I love going through these binders and choosing new recipes to try. But now there are binders for almost any kind of food – an album for poultry, an album for meat, one for veggies – well, you get the picture.

And as I was talking to myself about how to preserve these little recipe booklets that have come into my life, I thought of a solution. I took a booklet apart, carefully, and then was able to put 2 or 4 pages to a plastic protector.

My best guess is that these little recipe notebooks were compiled by a woman who collected recipes from her friends, neighbors, maybe relatives. Oftentimes, a recipe will be in a different handwriting – did my creative cook ask the person in question if she would write her recipe in her notebook?

And how did these recipes come about? Did the creative cook go to ladies’ luncheons? other gatherings in which women brought a favorite dish? a wedding? a funeral? Creative Cook doesn’t tell us where all of the recipes came from but I picture her taking this notebook and a pencil (most recipes are in pencil, not pen) with her to whatever function the ladies were attending. Eventually, she filled a notebook and started another one. I am forever grateful.

–Sandra Lee Smith

My Granddaughter Savannah


Isn’t it amazing how fast by the years have flown,
From infancy to woman, just look how much you’ve grown;
From a little girl in pigtails who was learning how to read,
From toddler to teenager, we’ve watched you take the lead.
You were always Grandpa’s favorite, and he called you “Littlebit”
Because he knew you’d be outstanding in whatever life that fit –
I know he’d be proud of you, in whatever curves life throws you,
And would say it’s been a pleasure just for him to know and love you;
And I feel the very same way, as we watched your life unfold—
If you’d been a gymnast, you would always take the gold,
But where ever life may lead you, whether here or far away,
Remember that I love you, far more than I can ever say.
My girl is going to college—life won’t ever be the same–
Watch out world, she’s coming and Savannah is her name.

–Sandra Lee Smith (AKA GRAMMY), January 3, 2014

My granddaughter has been here for this past week, a brief visit with all of us vying for her attention. We managed to play 4 games of scrabble and it is a tie, 2 wins each. I wrote the above poem when she started off to college; she will be starting her second year at Sacramento State and has a part time job to boot. Her daddy is taking her back to Burbank airport in about an hour or so–he likes having the time alone with her so they can talk. As she leaves us again–and the tears flow–it’s just as hard seeing her leave as it was the first time. I love you, Littlebit. Grandpa did too.


Friends of Sandy Chatter–I wanted to let you all know that I haven’t forgotten any of you or all the material I want to share–but my computer crashed and I have a loaner right now from a nephew who is a computer whiz kid; he is trying to clean up my computer which was badly infected. Right now I don’t have WORD, which I always used to draft any of my articles for Word Press. I’m hoping this direct route will reach everyone.
Hugs from Sandy@sandychatter.


While watching a Criminal Minds marathon a few days ago, I spent some hours working on the recipes that go into my 3-ring binders; I am often nonplussed over some of the finds in the box—and came across an article that appeared in the January, 2008, issue of Woman’s Day—I want to share a brief explanation of some of these–along with my thoughts:


EAT BREAKFAST—author Anna Routos writes that “Study after study shows that people who eat a morning meal are more energized, focused and weigh less..” she adds that an ideal choice is oatmeal with nonfat milk and fresh fruit such as blueberries or strawberries mixed in. (I’ve been eating my favorite cereals for breakfast, with a few frozen blueberries that thaw out quickly—when I have bacon on hand and fry some slices—I end up giving most of it to the dogs, a little bit crumbled over their dry kibble is a big treat.)

BONE UP – try a calcium supplement every day. That I do.

GET YOUR THREE-A-DAY of whole grains—this can cut your risk of heart disease by more than 35%. Good sources include oatmeal and brown rice.

MILK IT—it’s a great source of calcium as well as vitamin D, which recent research shows may help you live longer; it’s also linked to a lower risk of some cancers. I have been consuming milk with cereal but I really love low fat milk made into tapioca or chocolate pudding).

HYDRATE—and take it from the tap. We’re missing out on cavity-preventing fluoride since we’ve started drinking all that bottled H2O. (This isn’t something I ever stopped to consider—I keep bottled water on hand all the time since moving to the Antelope Valley—but I use tap water to make coffee or tea. Does that count?

DO A SHOT of sunscreen—you need a full shot glass to cover your entire body, and one teaspoon for your face to fully protect against skin cancer, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. (*This was such an eye opener—I generally spritz sunscreen on my arms and neck but never use it on my face; I only spread sunscreen on my legs when I am wearing shorts!

LUNCH ON SALAD – it’s an easy way to get at least two servings of vegetables in one shot, says Molly Morgan, R.D. Be sure to toss in the brightly colored ones which are highest in disease-fighting antioxidants. Try tomatoes, red and green peppers and broccoli.

FLOSS- gum disease increases your risk of various conditions, including diabetes and heart disease. (I have dentures so flossing isn’t something that I do).

The next “tips” are 6 NON-NEGOTIABLES –means vitally important—maybe put the list on your refrigerator door as a constant reminder. They are:

KNOW YOUR “BIG SEVEN” – Your weight, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, blood pressure, cholesterol, heart rate and blood sugar. These are the most crucial indicators of good health and disease risk—if any of these fall outside the healthy range, work with your doctor to get them under control.

TAKE YOUR FAMILY HEALTH HISTORY – Many diseases have a hereditary component, and your doctor may want to watch you more closely for conditions that run in your family. (My younger sister had a bout with breast cancer about two years ago and our older sister died in 2004 from complications arising from breast cancer that was not diagnosed early—after a mammogram in 2013, the doctor suggested some additional tests I should undergo, such as a breast MRI, since now there is history of breast cancer in my family.

We also discovered that some of us in my family have something called Factor 5, which is a blood disorder. We learned this when a niece in my family had a stillborn baby. My family doctor thought it unlikely I could have it—but guess what? I tested positive for this condition; one of my younger brothers also has it. My hematologist said quite frankly that it runs in my father’s side of the family. It could also explain three miscarriages I had n my child-bearing years. Both of my sisters have had miscarriages as well).

MEASURE YOUR WAIST MONTHLY – In women, if it’s over 25 inches, you’re at a higher risk for conditions like heart disease and diabetes, regardless of your weight. GET AN ANNUAL MAMMOGRAM starting at age 40, along with a yearly clinical breast exam and a periodic breast self-exam, it’s the best way to catch breast cancer in its early, most treatable stages.(who knew this about measuring your waist? not I!)

ASK FOR AN HPV TEST – Along with your Pap, it screens for the human papillomavirus which is directly linked to cervical cancer.

DO A FULL-BODY MOLE CHECK on yourself monthly, and get one yearly at the dermatologist. If you notice any that are new, changed or bleeding, see a dermatologist ASAP.


Nibble before dinner – having about 70 calories of healthy fat 20 minutes before you eat—that’ six walnuts, 12 almonds or 20 peanuts—can trick you into thinking you’re full faster. This works because good fats stimulate the production of a hormone that sends the signal to your brain that you’ve eaten enough.

HAVE PIZZA NIGHT – pizza is often dismissed as unhealthy but if you use whole wheat crust and lowfat cheese, and pile on the veggies (skipping the pepperoni and ground beef) its one the most nutritionally sound meals around. (the trick here, I think—is making your own pizza from scratch!)

JUICE IT UP – so long to its reputation as a sugar and calorie bomb. Research has found that drinking fruit and vegetable drinks can reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 76% and help lower cholesterol. Just make sure you go for 100% juice (and read labels carefully)

PUT PASTA ON THE MENU – just make sure you choose multigrain varieties!

DRINK A FRUITY COCKTAIL – Research shows that alcohol can increase the level of antioxidants in certain fruits, including strawberries and blackberries (who knew?)

EXPRESS YOURSELF – When people write affectionately about their close friends and family in three 20 minute sessions, their cholesterol dropped an average of eleven points! (Another who knew?!–I wonder if posting on your blog counts?)

GO SHOPPING! –Buying something as small as a lipstick can give your mood a lift plus you can burn off up to 160 calories walking around the mall(as always, be sure to choose a parking spot in the last row. (I don’t like to shop and only go to the mall when I have someone along with me. My shopping is pretty much confined to Quartz Hill and Lancaster—so I’m guilty of not doing this.)

DO THE DISHES—increasing light physical activity such as washing dishes and ironing—can lower blood glucose levels and may reduce the risk of diabetes according to research in the Journal DIABETES CARE. (Well, I wash dishes all the time, not having a dish washer( AM the dish washer) – and I iron only when I absolutely have to—I remember only all too well the hours spent doing ironing before permanent press came along—hours of ironing every week when I was still living at home with my parents. I did the ironing for the entire family with the exception of my father’s bowling shirts–But some of these tips may help all of us—and don’t do any ironing unless you absolutely have to!

–Sandra Lee Smith

2014 in review

I wanted to share this report with all of my subscribers and friends–I’ve neglected the blog this year due to some illness but I am much better and stronger, and I want to make it up to all of you who have stayed with me. Thank you, everyone – Sandy@sandychatter.

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 37,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 14 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.


Despite having hundreds—maybe thousands—of cookbooks—including a entire bookcase full of Christmas cookbooks—I don’t have a lot of Thanksgiving cookbooks.

Years ago, I gave up making a Thanksgiving dinner—because my then-husband never appreciated the nine or ten hours spent making a huge Thanksgiving dinner. He never complimented anything. If anything, he would say that the potatoes needed more salt. Well, then we became friends with Les and Neva. Les was a Hungarian refugee; he and other refugees escaped from Hungary during the Hungarian revolution. There were a group of Hungarian men who had married American women. Les was one of them, who married Neva.

Neva’s family all participated in a sumptuous Thanksgiving dinner, which was held at Neva’s parents’ home. Neva was from a large family and everyone participated—there would be, in addition to turkey, ham and roast pork. There would be many pies and cakes. You name it—it was spread out on the tables that were set up in their family room which led out to a lavish backyard filled with plants and trees. It became my job to make a lot of biscuits so I would make maybe 75 or 80 biscuits.

Those Thanksgiving dinners disappeared when Neva, then Les, passed away, as well as various members of Neva’s large family.

In 1986, I met Bob—and we began spending Thanksgiving holidays going up the coast, sometimes staying in San Luis Obispo, twice going to Hearst Castle , but exploring other areas too. Once we went to the well-known Madonna Inn for a Thanksgiving dinner that was sadly disappointing. When we discovered a   motel twelve miles south of San Luis Obispo in Pismo Beach, we also discovered their motel suite with a kitchen-ette. We spent a Thanksgiving there, with my sister and her husband and children. For Thanksgiving DAY my brother in law cooked hamburgers on a grill in the motel area. The next day I cooked a small turkey in a turkey roaster. We had instant potatoes and some instant made gravy, and some crescent rolls, canned cranberries and some canned vegetables such as corn. It was a fantastic dinner that we all remember fondly. The next day, I made turkey rice soup in the roaster and let it cook while we all went exploring in San Luis Obispo. It was drizzling and we walked around in the rain. We had the soup for dinner that night –and my sister and I filled gallon jars we had brought along with us with leftover soup. Until Bob’s health gave away, we almost always took off up the coast for Thanksgiving weekend.

In more recent years, I have participated in my daughter in law’s turkey dinners. I began making a turkey gravy recipe found on Epicurious in 2006 – Bob and I were invited to my friend Tina’s parent’s home for that Thanksgiving day dinner. Tina is from a large family and everybody participates in making the meal and then cleaning up afterwards. (it was reminiscent of Neva’s family dinners). I took the gravy in a crockpot to keep hot and had the rest in large jars—there was nothing left afterwards!

I have been making that Epicurious turkey gravy recipe ever since.

In my cookbook collection I found two Thanksgiving cookbooks – one is an All recipes “tried & true Thanksiving & Christmas top 200 recipes” ( is the very first cooking/recipe website I ever found). This cookbook was published in 2002. I also have Williams Sonoma Kitchen Library Chuck Williams’ Thanksgiving & Christmas originally published in 1993 and reprinted few times. I may have felt shortchanged not to have more Thanksgiving cookbooks – and is there one that doesn’t have Christmas tacked on with it?

I also have four turkey cookbooks—I have reviewed and written about THE TURKEY COOKBOOK by Rick Rodgers, posted on my blog, August, 2013, and WILD ABOUT TURKEY, a book published by the National Wild Turkey Federation, which I wrote about—and posted on my blog—in July, 2013. A greater search of my book shelves unearthed CHEF WOLFE’S NEW AMERICAN TURKEY COOKBOOK, a softcover cookbook published in 1984, and THE YEAR-ROUND TURKEY COOKBOOK, by Barbara Gibbons, also a soft cover cookbook published in 1980. But cookbooks about turkey – in a generic sense of the word – aren’t cookbooks about thanksgiving turkey.

A few years ago I realized that my women’s magazines were filled with Thanksgiving recipes every November – and I had stacks of magazines, some going back three or four years – to go through. I had a blank recipe book (actually, I have about half a dozen of those blank recipe books that I have filled out…two just with cookie recipes.

Anyway, I began going through my magazines and cutting out all the recipes for roasting turkeys, various types of stuffings and many different side dishes. My home-made Thanksgiving cookbook contains recipes for

Roast Turkey with Port Gravy

Roast Turkey with Sherry Butter

Rosemary Roasted Turkey

Orange Ginger Glazed Turkey

BBQ Glazed Turkey A La Orange

Sage Roast Turkey with Artichoke Stuffing

Roast Turkey with Spicy Chorizo Stuffing

Honey and Spice Glaze Turkey

Roast Turkey with Cranberry Fruit Dressing (oh, yum!)

Roast Turkey with Pomegranate Gravy

Traditional Roast Turkey

And The Simplest Roast Turkey

–plus many more, not to mention a lot of stuffing recipes, lots of sides and plenty of recipes for using up leftovers the day after Thanksgiving. I love my homemade Thanksgiving cookbook and never get tired of going through it looking for something new or unusual. Those blank recipe books turn up in various places – I know that one of mine came from Gooseberry Patch.

Actually, another one of the Gooseberry Patch cookbooks is a work in progress—I am collecting pumpkin recipes for that one. Another of my Gooseberry Patch cookbooks—believe it or not—contains all the fruitcake recipes I could find.

I love fruitcake—and Bob did too. So did our family friend Luther who could be counted on to help Bob shell and chop all the nuts and dried fruits for a fruitcake. I think these homemade cookbooks are just about my favorites; I keep them in a little bookcase by my computer and I never get tired of going through them. So, if you find yourself in a quandary, trying to decide what kind of turkey to make for Thanksgiving—think about creating your own holiday cookbook. It’s also a good project for winter days when it’s too dreary to go out of doors.

Meantime, let me share my turkey stock recipe with you. This appeared in Gourmet magazine in November, 2006. This recipe makes a lot—but if you buy some of those 2- quart Glad-lock containers (the kind shaped like a loaf) – you can freeze the stock to have on hand for other holidays or special occasions.


Roasting the turkey and vegetables before simmering them results in a dark stock that takes you more than halfway to a rich brown gravy. The recipe yields enough for the gravy and then some, but you’ll be happy to have the extra when it comes time to make soup.


6 lb turkey parts such as wings, drumsticks, and thighs 3 medium yellow onions, left unpeeled, trimmed and halved 3 celery ribs, cut into 2-inch lengths 3 carrots, quartered 5 qt cold water 6 fresh parsley stems (without leaves) 1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf 10 black peppercorns 1 1/2 teaspoons salt Special equipment: a 17- by 14-inch flameproof roasting pan

If using turkey wings, halve at joints with a cleaver or large knife, then crack wing bones in several places with back of cleaver or knife. (Do not crack bones if using other parts.) Pat turkey dry. Put oven rack in lowest position of oven and preheat oven to 500°F. Roast turkey parts, skin sides down, in dry roasting pan, turning over once, until browned well, about 45 minutes. Transfer to an 8- to 10-quart stockpot with tongs, reserving fat in roasting pan. Add onions (cut sides down), celery, and carrots to fat in pan and roast, stirring halfway through roasting, until golden, about 20 minutes total. Add vegetables to turkey in stockpot. Straddle pan across 2 burners, then add 2 cups water and deglaze by boiling, stirring and scraping up brown bits, 1 minute. Add deglazing liquid to turkey and vegetables in stockpot, then add parsley, bay leaf, peppercorns, salt, and remaining 4 1/2 quarts water. Reduce heat and gently simmer, partially covered, 3 hours. Pour stock through a large fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl, discarding solids. Measure stock: If there is more than 13 cups, boil in cleaned pot until reduced to 13 cups. If there is less, add enough water to bring total to 13 cups. If using immediately, let stand until fat rises to top, 1 to 2 minutes, then skim off and discard fat. If not, cool completely, uncovered, then chill, covered, before skimming fat (it will be easier to remove when cool or cold). Cooks’ note: Stock can be chilled in an airtight container 1 week or frozen 3 months. Makes about 13 cups. Thirteen cups is a little over three quarts stock. From Gourmet magazine, November 2006. Recipe also appeared in Epicurious.

To make gravy from your turkey stock, cornstarch will blend better than flour. For two cups of turkey stock, add 2 tablespoons cornstarch. Do not add cornstarch to hot liquids; it should only be added to cold water or turkey stock. Whisk and heat gently until the gravy has thickened.


–Sandra Lee Smith